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You Asked: Potassium and Sodium, What Is the Connection?

Dear FitSugar,
Since you have been covering a lot of ground on sodium and potassium, I heard that sodium and potassium levels compete with each other, so if the presence of one mineral rises, the amount of the other drops. Is that true?

I thought this was an interesting question, but a little out of my league, so I asked my friend, nutritionist Rania Batayneh, MPH of Essential Nutrition For You.

Here's what she had to say:

With regards to sodium and potassium in the body, the first thing to know is they are key electrolytes in the body- the third of importance is chloride. These electrolytes found in the body have a great influence on the flow of water between the various fluid compartments because of something referred to as osmotic pressure. They also influence the contraction of muscles and the transmission of nerve impulses by the nervous system. With regards to your question, it is seen in cells, for example, that potassium is constantly pumped into cells and sodium is constantly pumped out of the cell. This maintains our Na+/K+ (sodium/potassium) balance. Furthermore, it is often said that sodium (salt) is considered to be the dietary factor most related to blood pressure, but is appears that the sodium/potassium ratio is more important that the absolute amount of sodium.

I find that all very interesting and it reinforces the notion what you put in your body affects your body on a cellular level. Rania is a wealth of knowledge! If you have some specific questions for her, I encourage you to take advantage of her free 15 minute consultation. Especially if you would like to talk about creating an eating strategy that is right for you.

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freegracefrom freegracefrom 9 years
That's fascinating! I have issues with blood pressure and traditionally have had a diet high in sodium and low in potassium (oh so many painful charley horses!). I'll definitely pay more attention to keeping this balance between the two now.
darkoblivion darkoblivion 9 years
This is why the sodium-potassium pump is so vital to neuronal functioning/action potentials... keeps a homeostatic balance.
Wikipedia Wikipedia 9 years
Oh my God! This is why my potassium deficiencies have been so dangerous in the past. No more eating salt straight from the shaker for me!
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